One of the most important questions in any auto accident litigation is how long the trial process will take. While there are some clear processing patterns in most jurisdictions and courthouses, every case is different. In addition, every insurance company is different and has their own way of processing claims and lawsuits. For those reasons, it can be impossible to provide an accurate timeline for an auto accident lawsuit, but there are some guidelines to help.
Injury Claim Timeline
There is a timeline in most courthouses and insurance offices that liability insurance claims or lawsuits follow. The people involved may take more or less time in each step of the process, depending on their workload and the complexities of the case, but the timeline is generally the same:
- Choosing an attorney and signing a retainer agreement as well as other paperwork, including a medical release to obtain medical records
- Legal investigation whereby the attorney obtains the evidence and documents they require, including police reports and other legal records, investigating and photographing the accident scene and the vehicles involved, researching any history of accidents at that site, obtaining weather reports, interviewing witnesses or obtaining media evidence (such as traffic cameras when available), medical records (some immediately but full treatment reports may take longer, as may a final diagnosis of permanent or long-term injuries)
- Obtaining expert witnesses and testimony from medical reviewers, economists, accident reconstruction experts, road design engineers, and more, if required
- Obtain an assessment of the case and the attorney’s plan for pursuing it, including the amount of damages to seek, settlement options, and trial considerations
- Filing a claim letter with the defendant and a no-fault claim with the victim’s insurance company, when required
- Pursuing a settlement with the defendant, generally before filing a lawsuit, in order to save court costs if possible
- If a settlement is not possible at this point, filing a lawsuit, although an experienced attorney realizes a settlement may occur at any time throughout the process
- Discovery, or an exchange of evidence and information with the defendant, and taking depositions, or statements, from the parties involved
- Trial, which can take one to three years, depending on the jurisdiction and the case backlog there
Getting Legal Help with Auto Accident Litigation
Taking an auto accident claim to court is an expensive and time-consuming process. What’s more, it can be emotionally stressful to the victim struggling to recover from their injuries and losses. An auto accident attorney can take much of that stress and complexity on their shoulders and reduce the litigation process time. Their first goal is to complete a settlement favorable to their client. If that is not possible, they should be a good litigator to obtain that award in court. However, the victim needs to be patient during that wait of possibly several years, knowing that their attorney is committed to obtaining the best settlement or compensation award possible.